"This year's elite field is one of the most internationally diverse and talented that we
have ever hosted at the Bank of America Chicago Marathon, with the top
athletes in the world hailing from six continents-North America, South
America, Europe, Asia, Africa and Australia," said Executive Race Director
Carey Pinkowski. "The competitive atmosphere on October 9 will be like that
of the Olympic Games-a true celebration of the global nature of the sport
and a thrill for the residents and sports fans of our diverse city."
Bidding for her third straight Bank of America Chicago Marathon title,
Shobukhova, the Russian record holder in the marathon, will face perhaps
her fiercest competition from Kayoko Fukushi, the Japanese recorder holder
in the 3,000 meters (8:44.40), 5,000 meters (14:53.22) and half-marathon
(1:07:26), who will be looking to add the national marathon record to her
impressive list of accomplishments. Fukushi, a two-time Olympian, struggled
in her highly anticipated marathon debut at Osaka in 2008, but aims to
fulfill her marathon promise in her second attempt at the distance.
"At this year's Bank of America Chicago Marathon, I want to challenge the
2:20 mark, and also test my own abilities in the marathon and what the
distance involves," said Fukushi. "Racing in Chicago is the start of my
preparation for the 2012 Olympic Games Marathon in London."
Christelle Daunay, who set the French record (2:24:22) with her runner-up
performance at the 2010 Paris Marathon, and Benita Willis, who set the
Australian record (2:22:36) with her third-place finish at the 2006 Chicago
Marathon, will also factor heavily into the mix. Both athletes will be
looking to make a statement at the Bank of America Chicago Marathon as they
prepare for next summer's Olympic Marathon.
Finish times, not just placement, are of the essence for the Russian
contingent that, in addition to Shobukhova, includes Inga Abitova,
runner-up at the 2010 Virgin London Marathon, and Maria Konovalova,
third-place finisher at last year's Bank of America Chicago Marathon. The
Russian Olympic Federation will select its Olympic Marathon team based on
the two fastest times run by Russian athletes between September 1 and
December 31, 2011.
China's Wei Yanan, the two-time Seoul Marathon champion, and Yue Cao, were
also added to the women's elite field.
The men's competition will be far from a two-person race between Hall, the
American record holder in the half-marathon (59:43), and Mosop, Kenya's
second fastest marathoner (2:03:06). Brazil's Marilson Dos Santos, the
two-time ING New York City Marathon champion (2006 and 2008) and national
record holder in the half-marathon (59:33), returns to the Bank of America
Chicago Marathon for the first time since finishing sixth in 2004 with his
eye on Ronaldo Da Costa's Brazilian and South American record of 2:06:05.
Japan's Atsushi Sato, the national record holder in the half marathon
(1:00:25), will attempt to break the Japanese marathon record of 2:06:16,
which was set on the same course by Toshinari Takaoka at the 2002 Chicago
In addition to Sato, the men's field welcomes a group of Japanese athletes
looking to make a positive impression on their nation's Olympic selection
committee in the run-up to the 2012 Games, including Takayuki Matsumiya
(2:10:04), Takashi Horiguchi (2:12:05), Kouji Gokaya (2:12:07), Hironori
Arai (2:12:17), Masaki Shimoju (2:12:18) and Yuuki Moriwaki (2:13:34).
Similarly, Columbia's Jason Gutierrez (2:13:24) and Diego Colorado
(2:16:45) have chosen the Bank of America Chicago Marathon to post Olympic
qualifying performances-and perhaps challenge their country's national mark
of 2:11:17 set by Carlos Grisales at the 1996 Boston Marathon.
In the elite wheelchair competition, the 2011 Bank of America Chicago
Marathon was selected by the United States Olympic Committee (USOC) –
Paralympic Division to serve as an automatic qualifier for the 2012
Paralympic Games. The top two American finishers (male and female) with the
National Team "A" Standard will represent Team USA in London next summer.
The Bank of America Chicago Marathon is the only marathon in the country
selected to guarantee placement on the U.S. Paralympic Track & Field Team
this year-and the first ever to be so designated.
The wheelchair race will feature defending champions Amanda McGrory of the
U.S. and Heinz Frei of Switzerland. McGrory, who is based out of Champaign,
Ill., and represents the University of Illinois racing team, is aiming for
her fourth victory in the last five years. Her only defeat came in 2009 at
the hands of her U of I teammate, Tatyana McFadden, who will be on the
start line again this year, along with Canada's Diane Roy and Australia's
Christie Dawes, the second and fifth place finishers, respectively, at the
2009 Bank of America Chicago Marathon.
Frei, in his first appearance at the Bank of America Chicago Marathon, sped
to a course record of 1:26:56 last year, breaking the three-year-old mark
held by Australia's Kurt Fearnly, who missed the 2010 competition after
earning three consecutive victories from 2007-2009. This year's race will
be a highly anticipated showdown between the two champions, with the course
record once again in jeopardy.